Justice for Myanmar’s


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Rayhan Ahmed
Rayhan Ahmed Topader


Under international law, the principle of non-refoulement prohibits States from forcing individuals to return to countries when there are substantial grounds for believing that they would be at risk of persecution, torture, ill-treatment or other serious human rights violations. The experts expressed their serious concerns with the Indian legal and administrative processes for refugee status determination. The deportation of Rohingya to Myanmar speaks to a system of refugee status determination that fails to account for the ongoing, credible reports of ethnic and religious minority persecution in that country, the experts said. We also remain concerned with the systemic use of indefinite detention of Rohingya in India, which is indicative of the unacceptable conditions of discrimination and intolerance they face in the country where they have sought refuge.A Rohingya refugee weeps as she holds a child after they were detained while crossing the India-Bangladesh fenced border from Bangladesh, at Raimura village on the outskirts of Agartala, the capital of the northeastern state of Tripura, on January 22, 2019. UNB, Geneva.UN human rights experts condemned the Indian Government’s decision to deport three more Rohingyas to Myanmar and urged the authorities to stop such forced deportations which are prohibited under international law.

More Rohingyas deported, a father and his children, had been imprisoned since 2013, on charges related to lack of documentation. On 3 January 2019, India separated and forcibly returned five other members of their family to Myanmar. We are dismayed by the decision of the Indian Government to continue forced returns of Rohingya to Myanmar, where they face high risk of attacks, reprisals and other forms of persecution because of their ethnic and religious identity, said the experts. The refugee crisis has influenced girls dropping out in secondary schools. It came up during conversation with a local high school teacher that one out of every ten girls in class IX and X dropped out of his school due to being hired by the aid organizations. In order to work for them, the school girls produced fake documents and used false birth certificates. Many private and kindergarten school teachers in the area left jobs in favour of highly-paid NGO employment. As a result, nursery schools and kindergartens in the host community are now facing a severe shortage of teachers.These have created the conditions where discontent and frustration among the locals are starting to rise which may lead to outbursts not only hindering the delivery of aid to the refugees but also turning the area into a conflict zone. Finding solutions to address these factors for potential conflict is therefore crucial and urgent.

Since 1978, Bangladesh has been generously hosting Rohingya refugees in its coastal district of Cox’s Bazar. It happened to the Rohingya minority several times that they were forced to flee their home in Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh because of violence, persecution and killings. It shouldn’t be forgotten that local people were at the forefront of the reception of persecuted Rohingya refugees at the initial stages. To settle some 900,000 refugees, people in the host communities near Rohingya camps have lost their productive agricultural lands. Those who relied on agricultural work to sell their labour and their products in the local markets now struggle to do so. Their wages have gone down because of oversupply of labour from the refugees. They are suffering extremely from price hikes of essential commodities caused by the demand of aid supplies to the refugee camps and by the presence of over 7,000 international and national aid workers that has sharply increased the cost of living.

After the beginning of the refugee crisis, international and national NGOs hired local youths in helping them with emergency relief work as translators, field facilitators, drivers and laborers. However, many of them have recently lost their jobs. They claim that NGOs now tend to recruit incentive workers more from the refugee community and from outside of Cox’s Bazar. That is fueling discontent among local youth as evident by a number of demonstrations lately held in the town of Cox’s Bazar where protesters seek administrative initiatives for securing their jobs.

As the number of vehicles increased on narrow and twisting roads, accidents now often take place. So, road traffic and road safety have become concerns for local inhabitants. In the case of taking critically ill and injured patients to the general hospital in Cox’s Bazar, locals get no or minimal response for ambulance service from the medical organizations that provide much needed emergency medical care to the Rohingya refugees. The recent influx of Rohingya refugees fleeing mass atrocities in Myanmar since late August 2017 broke all previous records, leading to a tripling of the refugee population in Bangladesh. There are currently over a million Rohingya population living in the 23 refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar. It is almost double that of the locals, the country’s poorest people. This has put an immense pressure on the entire local community in terms of resource degradation, employment falling and social strains. Consequently, tensions between host communities and Rohingya refugees have started to arise as multiple demonstrations have recently been staged in Cox’s Bazar by the locals demanding repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar and also their fair share of humanitarian aid. It is important to identify the areas of potential conflict so aid agencies and government authorities can pay more attention to underlying factors, set their priorities to cope with the brewing tensions and develop conflict-sensitive and peace-building approaches to humanitarian assistance.

Local people who are already outnumbered by the refugees now feel that days are not far off until Rohingyas would take over the entire area. In fact, the birth rate among the refugees is three to four times higher than that of the locals. A report by Save the Children finds that more than 60 Rohingya babies a day are being born in refugee camps. This will bring a demographic change in the area where the locals already constitute a minority group, aggravating the fear and worry in the host communities. A municipal opposition motion will ask Montreal to join a Canada-wide campaign demanding an end to the genocide against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. Ensemble Montréal leader Lionel Perez and opposition councillor Marvin Rotrand said they will table the motion at the next city council meeting on April 15.While international attention has shifted to other crises, the reality is that the genocide continues in Myanmar, where more than 300,000 Rohingya continue to live in fear and where 140,000 waste away in concentration camps, director of advocacy and media relations for the Rohingya Human Rights Network at a press conference at city hall. He estimated that as many as 1.3 million Rohingya refugees are living in a vast camp in Bangladesh, including an estimated 725,000 who have fled there since August 2017.

While obviously it’s the federal government not municipalities that holds the levers on international issues, Khan and Kyle Matthews, executive director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia University, said municipalities have an important part to play in drawing attention to the issue. We’re asking municipal governments, the governments that are closest to Canadians, to call on the Canadian government to live up to its international legal obligations and to take leadership on the international stage to bring justice to the Rohingya, A similar motion will be tabled in Toronto’s city council on April 16, the councillors said. Canada took a leadership role in denouncing the genocide against the Rohingya, but now it should take the next step by invoking the international Genocide Convention to hold Myanmar responsible for atrocities, Perez called on the federal government to show the same generosity to the Rohingya it has demonstrated to Syrian refugees. In addition to pressing Ottawa to bring the case before the International Court of Justice, the motion asks for the release of journalists imprisoned by Myanmar, access for outside investigators and an increase in humanitarian aid to Bangladesh. The Rohingya exodus began after a brutal crackdown in 2017. Myanmar has denied accusations of genocide.

Rayhan Ahmed Topader: Writer and Columnist

 
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